Sometimes undertaking a new creative process can feel like being in the wilderness. Printmaker Lyell Castonguay felt that way when he started creating large-scale relief prints. Castonguay states, “Monumental woodblock prints are difficult to execute but I’ve always been drawn to technical challenges.  Even now, after years of carving and printing large-scale, I’m always reevaluating my process as new observations crop up.”  Over the years of testing various combinations of ink, paper, and printing setups, Castonguay founded BIG INK to share his knowledge. “Working with others and helping them discover the wonders of the process is rewarding.” BIG INK acts as a compass for artists who want to create large-scale relief.  A prospective participant applies to a printing event and if selected has 2 months to carve a woodblock guided by tutorial videos and an informational packet.  The carved woodblocks are brought to an event and artists assist each other in printing everyone’s work.  Hundreds of artists from coast to coast have made woodblocks ranging from 24” x 36” to 40” x 96” for BIG INK events.

BIG INK acts as a compass for artists who want to create a large-scale relief.

In 2018, BIG INK facilitated 20 printing events at art centers, studios, and universities. Demonstrations at museums occurred at The Demuth Museum in Lancaster, PA, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. At the MFA over 200 visitors attended the 5-hour extravaganza. Many asked questions while other spectators stayed for over 90 minutes to witness Castonguay ink and print 6 different artists’ large-scale woodblocks using BIG INK’s mobile press “The Big Tuna.”

Janie Kinnane monumental whale woodblock
Printing Janie Kinnane’s large-scale woodblock at Dedee Shattuck Gallery.

2018 was a banner year for emerging artists who participated in BIG INK’s program. At Dedee Shattuck Gallery in Westport, MA, artist Janie Kinnane’s spectacular 40” x 96” whale image marked her initial venture into woodblock printmaking.  Kinnane stated during the event, “This is just the beginning. [I’m] beyond stoked to see what carvings lie ahead!” Another example of incredible detail on a grand scale is a block carved by veteran printmaker and Tugboat Printshop co-founder Paul Roden. Roden’s 38” x 96” Prague cityscape was made in tribute to Roden’s family history. At Artists Image Resource in Pittsburg, PA, the air was brimming with excitement while printing Roden’s intricate block.  Roden noted that, “I’ve kept my studio practice private and reclusive for much too long, [and I am] feeling very inspired to join a community of artists and makers.”

Paul Roden Large Woodblock Print
Paul Roden beside his large-scale woodblock print.

On the West Coast, BIG INK visited 3 Fish Studios in San Francisco, CA, and Whiteaker Printmakers in Eugene, OR.  While on location, BIG INK facilitated the printing of over a dozen artist’s works on these studio’s presses.  Venues “The Big Tuna,” visited include Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, PA and Center For Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT, among others.

Giant Printmaking Press The Big Tuna
“The Big Tuna” giant mobile printmaking press visiting Riverviews Artspace, Lynchburg, VA.

From far and wide, BIG INK’s 2019 tour features innovative art centers and significant print venues. In June, a print weekend is near BIG INK’s headquarters at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH. The nonprofit art center was once a lollipop factory and its industrial, open gallery is an ideal space for working large. The following weekend BIG INK is using a massive press at Red Delicious Press to print woodblocks in the Denver region.

In September, “The Big Tuna” travels to Hatch Show Print for an event inside the Haley Gallery. This is their first visit to Nashville. For those not familiar with Hatch Show Print, this renown studio contains rich history in the music and art worlds. Other events include venues at Annapolis, MD; Columbus, OH; St. Petersburg, FL; Raleigh, NC; and Hyattsville, MD. For more information and to view prints created by past participants visit www.bigink.org.